David Cameron is already stoking the fires of Scottish nationalism

Scotland may have been persuaded to stick with the UK, but the unity that brought Labour, the Conservatives and the Lib Dems together looks set to unravel quickly.

‘Better Together’ was how the campaign to keep Scotland within the Union described itself and now, having seen Scotland very clearly reject the premise of independence, it is beholden upon all sides to show that a strong Scotland with enhanced powers for Holyrood really is better within the UK.

Today’s response from the prime minister to the results which streamed in overnight, however, might just have stoked the fires of nationalism north of the border for a generation.

Just days before the polls opened, Messers Cameron, Clegg and Miliband made a solemn vow that should Scotland vote to reject independence it could look forward to gaining new powers for the Scottish parliament and government whilst retaining the controversial Barnett Formula as the mechanism for determining funding across all regions of the UK.

The timetable to go with it was equally ambitious.

As Gordon Brown outlined the day after Westminster was rocked by the poll that put the Yes campaign in the lead, the promise made to the people of Scotland is for draft legislation to be published on further powers by January with a second reading to be held by 27 March next year.

In his response, Alex Salmond has this morning made clear that he will hold the feet of the unionist parties to the fire and keep them to their word. To do otherwise would be to disregard the promise that could have prevented Scotland voting yes last night.

Faced with such a tight timetable, however, David Cameron’s announcement that measures to address the West Lothian question, proposing some form of ‘English Votes for English Laws’, will be introduced in tandem with the devolution plans for Scotland raises a serious question of deliverability.

Whilst both parties in the UK government may have signed up to the plan in principle, the political reality is that Labour will have substantial problems.

Agreeing to the plans, however sketchy they might be at the moment, risks the party being elected to form a UK government whilst being unable to govern England properly. It really would be in office but not in power.

So what to do?

The scenarios are various:

  1. Labour takes the hit, supports the proposals and uses this as an opportunity to radically transform itself and improve its appeal in all corners of the country.
  1. David Cameron opts to de-couple the West Lothian Question from the Scottish devolution plans in the knowledge that seeking solutions to both in the same time frame in simply unrealistic. This would weaken Cameron’s standing in England and hand a victory to UKIP.
  1. The government proceeds regardless with plans for English Votes for English laws in the teeth of opposition from Labour, risking the prospect of being unable to deliver further powers for Holyrood in the time frame promised, stoking the fires of nationalism in Scotland for a generation.

At a time when statesmanship was required from the prime minister, he failed to deliver, seeking to call Ed Miliband’s bluff in a game of English politics that shows his mind has moved from the fight with Alex Salmond to the battle with Nigel Farage.

Scotland may have been persuaded to stick with the UK, but the unity that brought Labour, the Conservatives and the Lib Dems together looks set to unravel quickly. A pandora’s box has been opened with who knows what consequences.

Ed Jacobs is a Left Foot Forward contributing editor

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7 Responses to “David Cameron is already stoking the fires of Scottish nationalism”

  1. CGR

    Clearly the democratic issue of Scottish MPs voting on laws that don’t apply to Scotland has to be addressed.

    Either we have full and equal devolution to England, Wales, NI & Scotland or we have some sort of rule by which MPs can only vote if the proposals in a Bill directly impact those that elected them !!!!

  2. flicktokick

    Spot-on analysis. Forget option 2, Cameron is not going to sacrifice a political opportunity to keep Scotland happy at this point – there is not going to be another Referendum any time soon, even if Scots do feel betrayed. There may be much resentment, but what are they going to do – protest? demonstrate? When all the commentators, including all the Labour ones, described a peaceful, jolly demo with people singing and dancing and juggling, as well as holding up banners to BBC Scotland as a baying mob?(you might have been uneasy about the purpose but it was peaceful) What are the right wing press going to call them if they are really, really angry?

    Could Labour really do option 1. It might be the most sensible option – although it might not look that way in the short term, but selling to the party would be difficult.

    So you are left with option 3 in which Labour are placed in a very tight bind, having to find some way of checking the gerrymandering which is likely in the redrawing of powers without being painted as Anti-English. At that point Cameron could stoke up feeling enough to carry England in 2015 and from there carry out a wholesale carve up of the levers of government to make future success for Labour much more difficult.

  3. swat

    It would be interesting to hear what Scotish Labour MPs have to say about their role at Westminster. So far I haven’t heard aword from any of them, apart from Brown and Darling

  4. Chrisso

    For a change I agree with this analysis. The ‘Vow’ that will never be delivered was actually a betrayal of the Scottish people that is redolent of Thatcher’s betrayal of her devolution promise to them at the time of the 1979 election.

  5. Chrisso

    The supreme irony is that for 15 years the SNP MPs have as a matter of policy not been voting on English issues in Westminster, it’s Labour’s Scottish MPs that have done so. They were used by Blair to overcome rebellions by his own party on English student tuition fees and on bringing in framework hospitals in England. So Cameron is well aware that it’s Labour he’s after, it’s nothing to do with the SNP MPs. In the 60s Ulster Unionists were used by the Tories to frustrate some of Wilson’s plans for England. This is most certainly not a ‘new’ issue.

  6. Old Albion

    Here’s a radical idea. How about politicians of all colours doing what is best for the ‘so called’ Union. Instead of fighting their tribal wars………..no…………thought not.

  7. Bob McMahon

    “In a modern democracy, it is important that those who make the laws of the land should be elected by those to whom those laws apply.”
    Nick Clegg said the above in the House of Commons, 18/5/2011. He was talking specifically about the House of Lords, but he could have been talking about any legislative body, anywhere in the world. I wonder if he’ll back those words with meaningful action? I won’t hold my breath.

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